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Britten: Billy Budd ~ Hampson Import, Live


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Audio CD, Import, Live, August 17, 2005
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Product Details

  • Performer: Manchester Boys Choir
  • Orchestra: Hallé Orchestra
  • Conductor: Kent Nagano
  • Composer: Benjamin Britten
  • Audio CD (August 17, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Import, Live
  • Label: Erato / Warner
  • ASIN: B000006CS4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,816 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Billy Budd: Act 1: Prologue
2. Billy Budd: Act 1: Scene I: Pull, My Bantams
3. Billy Budd: Act 1: Scene I: Send For John Claggart
4. Billy Budd: Act 1: Scene I: Billy Budd, King Of The Birds (Billy)
5. Billy Budd: Act 1: Scene I: I Heard, Your Honour! (Claggar)
6. Billy Budd: Act 1: Scene I: Come Along, Kid!
7. Billy Budd: Act 1: Scene I: Christ, The Poor Chap, The Poor Little Runt! (Billy)
8. Billy Budd: Act 1: Scene I: Vere! Vere! Officers And Men... (Vere)
9. Billy Budd: Act 2: Scene I: My Compliments... (Vere)
10. Billy Budd: Act 2: Scene I: Don't Like The French!
See all 18 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Billy Budd: Act 3: Scene 1: I Don't Like The Look Of The Mist! (Vere)
2. Billy Budd: Act 3: Scene 1: Deck Ahoy!
3. Billy Budd: Act 3: Scene 1: All Guns Ready Sir!
4. Billy Budd: Act 3: Scene 1: There Are You Again, Master-At-Arms (Vere)
5. Billy Budd: Act 3: Scene 1: Nay, Nay, You're Mistaken (Vere)
6. Billy Budd: IInterlude and Scene 2: Claggart, John Claggart, Beware (Vere)
7. Billy Budd: Act 3: Scene 2: You Wanted To See Me (Billy)
8. Billy Budd: Act 3: Scene 2: God O'Mercy! (Vere)
9. Billy Budd: Act 3: Scene 2: Interlude. William Budd, You Are Accused
10. Billy Budd: Act 3: Scene 2: Poor Fellow, Who Could Save Him?
See all 16 tracks on this disc

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Benjamin Britten's "Billy Budd," based on Melville's story, is the second-best opera about life on the sea since Wagner's "Flying Dutchman"--the best being Britten's "Peter Grimes." It is one of the 20th Century's most tragic operas and the only important opera with an all-male cast. Its music evokes the ocean: the winds and waves, the sailors' songs, and the harsh realities of a seaman's life on a British 18th-century man-of-war. It climaxes in a deadly confrontation between pure good, embodied in the young sailor Billy Budd (Hampson), and pure evil in the sadistic master at arms, John Claggart (Halfvarson). Composed in 1951, it was shortened to the now standard two acts by Britten for a broadcast in 1960. This brilliant first recording of the original four-act version shows that much was lost in the revision. --Joe McLellan

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
5 star
82%
4 star
9%
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See all 11 customer reviews
Yet even the small parts are well sung.
Grady Harp
He instills, improbably but beautifully, a delicacy which is a perfect counterbalance to the vastness of the story and the orchestral force involved.
Thomas R. Hanson
The minor roles are sung very well; the chorus is the best on ecords.
Santa Fe Listener

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Santa Fe Listener HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 26, 2005
Format: Audio CD
The British prefer Britten operas not to be overly exciting, and even the composer's classic Decca recording of Billy Budd is much less dynamic than the premiere performance from 1951, which can still be heard in serviceable pirated mono (VAI). Kent Nagaon changed all that with this riveting live performance from 1997 with the Halle Orchestra, playing as if their lives depended on it. The full oppression and buried anger of the sailors is caught from the very first and builds with tremendous force to the moment when they witness, through frightening wordless agony, the hanging of Billy Budd.

Nagano conducts the original 4-act version, but his tempos are vigorous enough to capture the whole opera on 2 CDs (other recordings, even of the revised 2-act version, take three). Abetted by sonics that are super-charged with vitality, Nagaono papers over the stretches of less-than-compelling music that crop up, and he uses ever-shifting orchestral color to enliven the potential monotony of an all-male opera.

Of the leads, Rolfe-Johnson stands out for his haunted, emotionallly driven Vere, the best reading in dramatic terms since Pears premiered the role. Hampson doesn't sound as young as Simon Keenlyside on the Hickox set, or as charmistmatic and innocent as Thomas Uppmann at the premiere, but he is a great interpreter of this role, once you accept that he often sounds more like Thomas Hampson than a gang-pressed British sailor. Halfverson sings a dark Claggart with plenty of ocnviction, but there is wobble in his voice, and it clouds his diciton. The minor roles are sung very well; the chorus is the best on ecords.

Altogether, this is a riveting musical experience, and it should convert many American listeners to one of the masterpieces of opera in English, a work fully the equal and in some ways the superior to Peter Grimes, which is much better known in this country.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 26, 1999
Format: Audio CD
This is not only a magnificent opera; on this recording, it's a manificent-SOUNDING opera. The aural quality on these two discs is clear and crisp, putting the listener in the thick of it immediately. All of the performances are first-rate; Thomas Hampson strikes a fine balance between tragedy and bravery as Billy and his duets with Richard Van Allen (playing Dansker, Billy's shipmate and friend) are especially powerful. But the finest of the performances is unquestionably Anthony Rolfe Johnson's as Captain Vere; he's given a great role and he makes the most of it, showing all of the captain's anguish at the choices he knows he must make. This full version of the opera is the one to get and sets a high standard for future recordings.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Thomas R. Hanson on August 6, 2003
Format: Audio CD
My own bias: Melville lover. This is the only 20th century opera in English I've ever found really emotionally involving as a drama. It's a unique blend of 20th century sensibility and 20th century style with, somehow a 19th century flavor. Note how Billy's Act IV moonlight reflections on his execution set for the dawn is set to the same gentle rocking figure that Berlioz used for Hylas' lonely song in Les Troyens. I wonder whether it is even possible that Britten in 1950 could have known that Berlioz piece. The libretto by E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier is a wonderful humanizing of Melville's hard crystalline cerebral story of a good man confronting fathomless evil, and "having" to abet the evil by killing a purely good man for the "greater good" of his ship and country. They manage to get across a great deal of the complexity of Melville's short novel while adding opportunities for warmth and humor. And manage to make a slightly fatuous "Captain Vere has become a good man due to his contact with Billy" ending a reasonably acceptable conclusion even to someone like me who would prefer to leave the tale as Melville did, without that comforting thought.
Britten takes full advantage of every opportunity Forster and Crozier give him, setting scenes that move like good drama, with sweep and pace, and creates an unforgettable ending with the brass writing for Billy's hanging somehow dangling and twisting in the air with his body (never seen in either of the two productions I've seen) No need. Britten is both eyes and ears here.
I've never seen this 4-act version, just the 2-act revision
usually staged. Much was lost in the cutting.
Read more ›
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 10, 2001
Format: Audio CD
I consider this recording the prize of my opera collection. Billy Budd is an amazing, moving, beautiful opera that leaves the listener unconsciously holding his breath at the end. Britten's music never ceases to amaze me, and this is my personal favorite of all his works. Those already familiar with the opera may want to know that this is the four-act version. This recording is excellent in every way - the three star performers especially are perfect for their roles. Hampson sounds young, charming, handsome and joyful as Billy; he has a beautiful voice and skilled understanding of the music, text and character. Halfvarson is an amazingly evil, powerful, captivating Claggart. Rolfe Johnson sings Capt. Vere with a sensitivity that captures the listener's own emotions - when the orchestra finishes playing, we are left with him alone, the "sole earthly witness" and survivor. I can't say enough about this recording, or this wonderful opera!
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